Odin is the chief deity of Norse mythology. He was to the Vikings what Zeus was to the Greeks. He was the father of Thor, the god of thunder, and was the ruler of Valhalla. Odin gained infinite knowledge after he stabbed himself with his magical spear and hung for nine days on the Yggdrasil, an immense tree known as the “world tree”. After surviving this ordeal, Odin was considered worthy to look at the magical runes kept beneath the tree. He later gave one of his eyes in exchange for a drink from a magical spring known as Mimir’s Well.
Odin is known to Germans as Wodan or, more commonly, as Wotan. He became almost solely associated with Germany after composer Richard Wagner made him one of the main characters in his four opera saga Der Ring des Nibelungen. In addition to being the ruler of Valhalla, the one-eyed Wotan is the father of the nine Valkyries and of the Walsungs, a race of heroes.
During the early 20th century, the Nazis marched across Europe to the tune of Wagner’s music. Richard Wagner was extremely anti-Semitic and his lost world of Germanic gods and heroes appealed to the disordered philosophies of Adolf Hitler. Wotan’s descendants are quite similar to the Nazis’ idea of a Master Race.
Even before Hitler came to power, he was obsessed with Wagner and with Wotan himself. Shortly before Hitler was wounded in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, he wrote a poem that started “I often go on bitter nights to Wotan’s oak in the quiet glade…”
On July 20, 1944, Hitler was nearly killed by bomb that had been placed in his headquarters by several members of the Nazi party. The plot was led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a Catholic who had had misgivings about Hitler’s policies before World War II began. Von Stauffenberg had been severely wounded on April 7, 1943 and had lost two fingers on his left hand, his entire right hand, and his left eye. His plot to kill Hitler was dramatized with hardly any artistic license in the 2008 film Valkyrie.
When the assassination attempt failed, von Stauffenberg’s death was certain. He and his fellow conspirators were executed on July 21, 1944. Isn’t it rather interesting that Adolf Hitler was nearly destroyed by a man with only one eye?
Sources: Lindemans, Micha F. “Odin”
Simon, Henry W. “100 Great Operas and Their Stories”